An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device. Mnemonic: ACID (Anode Current Into Device). Electrons flow in the opposite direction to the positive electric current.
A widespread misconception is that anode polarity is always positive. This is often incorrectly inferred from the correct fact that in all electrochemical devices negatively charged anions move towards the anode and/or positively charged cations move away from it. Anode polarity is not always positive but depends on the device type, and sometimes even in which mode it operates, as determined by the above electric current direction-based universal definition. Examples:
An electrode through which current flows the other way (out of the device) is termed a cathode.
The word was coined in 1834 from the Greek ἄνοδος (anodos), 'way up', by William Whewell, who had been consulted by Michael Faraday over some new names needed to complete a paper on the recently discovered process of electrolysis. In that paper Faraday explained that when an electrolytic cell is oriented so that electric current traverses the "decomposing body" (electrolyte) in a direction "from East to West, or, which will strengthen this help to the memory, that in which the sun appears to move", the anode is where the current enters the electrolyte, on the East side: "ano upwards, odos a way ; the way which the sun rises" (reprinted in ).
The use of 'East' to mean the 'in' direction (actually 'in' → 'East' → 'sunrise' → 'up') may appear unnecessarily contrived. Previously, as related in the first reference cited above, Faraday had used the more straightforward term "eisode" (the doorway where the current enters). His motivation for changing it to something meaning 'the East electrode' (other candidates had been "eastode", "oriode" and "anatolode") was to make it immune to a possible later change in the direction convention for current, whose exact nature was not known at the time. The reference he used to this effect was the Earth's magnetic field direction, which at that time was believed to be invariant. He fundamentally defined his arbitrary orientation for the cell as being that in which the internal current would run parallel to and in the same direction as a hypothetical magnetizing current loop around the local line of latitude which would induce a magnetic dipole field oriented like the Earth's. This made the internal current East to West as previously mentioned, but in the event of a later convention change it would have become West to East, so that the East electrode would not have been the 'way in' any more. Therefore "eisode" would have become inappropriate, whereas "anode" meaning 'East electrode' would have remained correct with respect to the unchanged direction of the actual phenomenon underlying the current, then unknown but, he thought, unambiguously defined by the magnetic reference. In retrospect the name change was unfortunate, not only because the Greek roots alone do not reveal the anode's function any more, but more importantly because, as we now know, the Earth's magnetic field direction on which the "anode" term is based is subject to reversals whereas the current direction convention on which the "eisode" term was based has no reason to change in the future.
Since the later discovery of the electron, an easier to remember, and more durably correct technically although historically false, etymology has been suggested: anode, from the Greek anodos, 'way up', 'the way (up) out of the cell (or other device) for electrons'.
In the United States, many battery manufacturers regard the positive electrode as the anode, particularly in their technical literature. Though technically incorrect, it does resolve the problem of which electrode is the anode in a secondary (or rechargeable) cell. Using the traditional definition, the anode switches ends between charge and discharge cycles.
At least one anode is found in tank-type hot water heaters. The anode should be removed and checked after 5 years(sooner if there is a sodium based water softner inline), and replaced if 6 inches (15 cm) or more of bare wire is showing. This will greatly extend the life of the tank.
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